Which NFL Team Has The Best Pass Catchers? Round Of 16

Photo: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

This is the second part of a project of mine here at The Draft Network. The ultimate goal is to rank the top group of pass catchers in the NFL.

In order to do so, I created a 32 team bracket while listing the pass catchers for each squad. By “pass catchers” I generally mean each team’s wide receivers, tight ends and running backs.

Today will be the round of 16, as the opening round was completed yesterday. Click here if you missed that installment.

There had to be some structure within this tournament, so let me explain how I viewed each unit. Below, I’ve listed the depth chart of each remaining team with their top 4 wide receivers, top 2 tight ends and top 2 running backs. Beneath that, there are the major depth pieces for all three positions.

Things can get hairy when applying strict numbers to a group of players, take the Steelers for example. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Ryan Switzer, James Washington, Eli Rogers and Donte Moncrief make up a deep group of wide receivers. Cutting them down to just four players was a difficult task. It’s possible that you won’t agree with some players relegated to the “depth” section, but those borderline players impact the group a bit less anyway.

Something that should be noted is that these aren’t necessarily listed by standing on the team’s actual depth chart. While the Eagles are likely to give Jordan Howard a strong portion of the playing time, I’d expect them to feature Miles Sanders and Corey Clement more in the passing game. Since the passing game is what we’re looking at, that puts Howard into the depth category.

Additionally, these lists needed to be cut down to not include every player on the 90-man rosters. So while I like your favorite team’s late round picks and undrafted free agents too, they didn’t necessarily make the cut here. The players listed are those that I expect to have an opportunity to make an impact this season.

Lastly, some players are facing suspension or coming back from injury. Those players have mostly been relegated to the “Depth / Unknown” section, as their future usage is up in the air. These players are valued when comparing them to other teams, but it’s difficult to gauge just how effective they will be moving forward.

To structure the tournament, each team started by competing against their own divisions first. Today, we’ll crown the champion of each division. Be sure to keep your eyes out for the subsequent rounds that will be posted within the coming days.

Let’s get into the depth chart of each remaining team in the AFC.

New England Patriots

WR Julian Edelman

WR N’Keal Harry

WR Dontrelle Inman

WR Phillip Dorsett

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

TE Matt LaCosse

RB James White

RB Sony Michel

Depth / Unknown

*WR Demaryius Thomas

*WR Josh Gordon

WR Jakobi Meyers

WR Maurice Harris

RB Rex Burkhead

*TE Ben Watson

New York Jets

WR Robby Anderson

WR Quincy Enunwa

WR Jamison Crowder

WR Deontay Burnett

TE Chris Herndon IV

TE Trevon Wesco

RB Le’veon Bell

RB Elijah McGuire

Depth / Unknown

WR Josh Bellamy

TE Eric Tomlinson

Los Angeles Chargers

WR Keenan Allen

WR Mike Williams

WR Travis Benjamin

WR Dylan Cantrell

TE Hunter Henry

TE Virgil Green

RB Melvin Gordon

RB Austin Ekeler

Depth / Unknown

RB Justin Jackson

Oakland Raiders

WR Antonio Brown

WR Tyrell Williams

WR Hunter Renfrow

WR Marcell Ateman

TE Luke Wilson

TE Foster Moreau

RB Josh Jacobs

RB Jalen Richard

Depth / Unknown

WR Ryan Grant

WR Dwayne Harris

WR JJ Nelson

RB Doug Martin

Pittsburgh Steelers

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

WR Diontae Johnson

WR Donte Moncrief

WR Ryan Switzer

TE Vance McDonald

TE Zach Gentry

RB James Conner

RB Jaylen Samuels

Depth / Unknown

WR James Washington

WR Eli Rogers

RB Benny Snell Jr.

Cleveland Browns

WR Odell Beckham Jr.

WR Rashard Higgins

WR Jarvis Landry

WR Antonio Callaway

TE David Njoku

TE Seth Devalve

RB Nick Chubb

RB Duke Johnson

Depth / Unknown

WR Damion Ratley

Indianapolis Colts

WR T.Y. Hilton

WR Parris Campbell

WR Devin Funchess

WR Chester Rogers

TE Eric Ebron

TE Jack Doyle

RB Marlon Mack

RB Nyheim Hines

Depth / Unknown

WR Zach Pascal

TE Mo Alie-Cox

RB Jordan Wilkins

Tennessee Titans

WR Corey Davis

WR A.J. Brown

WR Adam Humphries

WR Taywan Taylor

TE Delanie Walker

TE Jonnu Smith

RB Derrick Henry

RB Dion Lewis

Depth / Unknown

WR Tajae Sharpe

WR Cameron Batson

*Denotes player that is a surefire talent, but have an unsure outlook on their availability

New York Jets def. New England Patriots

New England’s group of pass catchers has the ceiling to be the best in the league if everything comes together. However, there is currently a lot of unknown surrounding Josh Gordon (suspension) and Demaryius Thomas (injury). Meanwhile, the Jets have added outstanding pass catching talent this offseason.

With Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and Jamison Crowder, New York has one of the better trios around the league. On top of that, Le’Veon Bell is one of the best pass catching running backs in the history of the NFL. Second-year tight end Chris Herndon IV looked promising as a rookie, offering a high ceiling. While somewhat unproven, the Jets unit could really explode this season and have a much clearer initial outlook than the Patriots.

Los Angeles Chargers def. Oakland Raiders

The presence of Antonio Brown tightens this competition, but the Chargers still have the stronger overall unit. With Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, the Chargers top 2 pairing of wide receivers rivals Oakland’s. There’s not much difference in either direction between Travis Benjamin and Dylan Cantrell compared to Hunter Renfrow and Marcell Ateman, making the wide receiver units a wash.

Where Los Angeles separates themselves is at tight end and running back with Hunter Henry and Melvin Gordon. The upside of Raiders rookies Foster Moreau and Josh Jacobs at either position is apparent, but Henry and Gordon are established as above average pass catchers. They get the edge in this matchup.

Cleveland Browns def. Pittsburgh Steelers

With Cleveland’s addition of Odell Beckham Jr. and Pittsburgh trading of Antonio Brown, the Browns have overtaken the AFC North’s top spot for pass catchers. While the running back and tight end position for either side are strikingly similar, the Browns have overtaken the Steelers with their wide receiver core.

JuJu Smith-Schuster is a budding star, but isn’t quite on Odell Beckham’s level. Looking past the #1 options, Rashard Higgins and Jarvis Landry offer upside and consistency. Pittsburgh has a lot of bodies at wide receiver, but none of which standout outside of JuJu. Their depth isn’t quite enough to pass up Cleveland’s top end talent.

Indianapolis Colts def. Tennessee Titans

This matchup was the closest one of the round, as these units look even as a whole. I settled on Indianapolis, and I’ll tell you why.

The Colts have the best overall player among either side in T.Y. Hilton, a sort of trump card over Tennessee. On top of that, their duo of pass-catching tight ends Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle is fantastic. Nyheim Hines is already one of the most well-rounded receiving running backs in the NFL, with the potential to keep growing.

Tennessee has outstanding depth at wide receiver with the free agent addition of criminally underrated Adam Humphries and second-round draft pick of A.J. Brown. They add to a unit with the ascending Corey Davis and solid presences of Taywan Taylor and Tajae Sharpe. However, an aging and banged up Delanie Walker and mediocre receiving threat Jonnu Smith at tight end fail to move the needle. This gives the Colts better balance across all three positions while still have the elite talent in Hilton. For those reasons, I chose Indianapolis by a hair.

Now let’s take a look at the depth chart of each remaining team in the NFC:

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Alshon Jeffery

WR Nelson Agholor

WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

WR Desean Jackson

TE Zach Ertz

TE Dallas Goedert

RB Miles Sanders

RB Corey Clement

Depth / Unknown

RB Jordan Howard

RB Wendell Smallwood

New York Giants

WR Golden Tate

WR Sterling Shephard

WR Darius Slayton

WR Cody Latimer

TE Evan Engram

TE Rhett Ellison

RB Saquon Barkley

RB Wayne Gallman

Depth / Unknown

WR Corey Coleman

WR Bennie Fowler

Los Angeles Rams

WR Brandin Cooks

WR Robert Woods

WR Cooper Kupp

WR Josh Reynolds

TE Gerald Everett

TE Tyler Higbee

RB Todd Gurley

RB Darrell Henderson

Depth / Unknown

RB John Kelly

RB Malcolm Brown

San Francisco 49ers

WR Dante Pettis

WR Marquise Goodwin

WR Deebo Samuel

WR Jordan Matthews

TE George Kittle

TE Garrett Celek

RB Tevin Coleman

RB Jerick McKinnon

Depth / Unknown

WR Jalen Hurd

WR Trent Taylor

RB Matt Breida

RB Kyle Juszczyk

Chicago Bears

WR Allen Robinson

WR Taylor Gabriel

WR Anthony Miller

WR Riley Ridley

TE Trey Burton

TE Adam Shaheen

RB Tarik Cohen

RB David Montgomery

Depth / Unknown

WR Cordarrelle Patterson

WR Javon Wims

RB Mike Davis

Detroit Lions

WR Kenny Golladay

WR Marvin Jones Jr.

WR Danny Amendola

WR Travis Fulgham

TE T.J. Hockenson

TE Jesse James

RB Kerryon Johnson

RB Theo Riddick

Depth / Unknown

WR Brandon Powell

WR Andy Jones

RB CJ Anderson

Atlanta Falcons

WR Julio Jones

WR Calvin Ridley

WR Mohamed Sanu

WR Justin Hardy

TE Austin Hooper

TE Luke Stocker

RB Devonta Freeman

RB Ito Smith

Depth / Unknown

WR Russell Gage

TE Eric Saubert

TE Logan Paulsen

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

WR Mike Evans

WR Chris Godwin

WR Justin Watson

WR Breshad Perriman

TE O.J. Howard

TE Cameron Brate

RB Ronald Jones

RB Peyton Barber

Depth / Unknown

WR Scotty Miller

WR Damarkus Lodge

Philadelphia Eagles def. New York Giants

I mentioned this yesterday during the round of 32, but the Philadelphia Eagles are incredibly stacked with their pass catchers. With Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Desean Jackson, they are deep and talented at wide receiver. They have one of the best pass catching tight ends in football in Zach Ertz, and another promising pass catching second-year tight end in Dallas Goedert. Add in Corey Clement and Miles Sanders, and they’re loaded at each position.

The Giants still have a solid group despite the loss of Odell Beckham Jr., but it’s not a unit that legitimately challenges Philadelphia. The Eagles breeze through the NFC East.

Los Angeles Rams def. San Francisco 49ers

I noted yesterday that Los Angeles has one of the two best wide receiver trios in the NFL (along with Atlanta) in Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp. On top of that, Todd Gurley is a dynamic receiving threat at running back.

While San Francisco has done a good job of adding depth at wide receiver with talented young players, they’re currently unproven. It’s possible that their young prospects such as Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd develop to rival the Rams receivers, which would vault the 49ers (and George Kittle) near the top of the league. But for now, they don’t quite compete with the group out in Los Angeles.

Chicago Bears def. Detroit Lions

Chicago’s talent acquisition over the past year has been outstanding, and the depth is starting to show with their wide receivers. Allen Robinson had an underrated season last year, and Taylor Gabriel is an electric inside threat. Anthony Miller is a promising second-year talent, giving the Bears an above average trio. Tarik Cohen is one of the best receiving backs in football, and Trey Burton is a more than capable tight end. Even past the starting unit, their young receivers Riley Ridley, Javon Wims and Emanuel Hall all have upside.

The Lions have a solid group, but I’d take the Bears talent, depth and balance in their pass catching group.

Atlanta Falcons def. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Atlanta’s trio of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu is one of the best in the NFL. Having those three puts Atlanta in outstanding position, and they’re not held down by Austin Hooper or Devonta Freeman either. That well-rounded and talented unit is going to be a tough out in this tournament, and Tampa Bay comes up short.

Tampa Bay has an elite talent in Mike Evans, but Julio is on another level and Atlanta is better all the way down the wide receiver depth chart. The Bucs get good play out of their tight ends, but they don’t move the needle enough to vault Tampa on to Atlanta’s level.